Dating back in the 11th century, St. Spyridon’s Monastery dominated the port of Piraeus for centuries, witnessing all the phases of the turbulent history of the port, till 1827, the year it was destructed.
A huge fortified building, its existence being identified with the Port of Piraeus, St. Spyridon’s Monastery was mainly known as “the Monastery of Draco”, since-during the years of the Venetian Occupation of Piraeus- the Port of Piraeus was called Porto Leone (the port of the lion) and “Porto Draco” (the port of the Dragon), due to the gigantic Piraeus Lion decorating the port until 1687. A “castle monastery”, St. Spyridon’s Monastery resisted pirate attacks and was the protector of the port.
In 1827 during the Greek Independence War, the Greek battleship “Hellas” ruthlessly bombarded the Monastery where the Turkish army had been entrenched. The outcome of the battle – a glorious victory for the Greeks – signaled Piraeus’ liberation from the Turkish, with a collateral damage: the total destruction of St. Spyridon’s Monastery.
In 1833, all the lands belonging to St. Spyridon’s Monastery – the lands being actually the whole Piraeus Peninsula – became the Greek State’s property and it was on these plots that the first settlements in Piraeus were built.
In recognition of the contribution of St. Spyridon’s Monastery to the city of Piraeus, it was decided that Saint Spyridon would be the patron saint of Piraeus.
St. Spyridon’s Church, located right opposite the port and one of the oldest churches in Piraeus, was constructed between 1863 and 1870. Dedicated to the patron saint of Piraeus, St. Spyridon’s Church was built on the very same plot where St. Spyridon’s Monastery used to be.
In 1835, in the ruins of the old monastery convenes the first Municipal Council of the city of Piraeus under Kiriakos Serfiotis, the first mayor of Piraeus, and decides the erection of a church dedicated to Saint Spyridon.
The first church proved to be small and inadequate, and a second church was built, the one we see today. St. Spyridon church was originally designed by the prominent Greek architect Stamatios Cleanthis. Cleanthis, following the standards of neoclassicism, visualized an immense church covering a space of 400 m. sq. with a capacity of 1,000 people plus the women’s quarters.
However his designs were reviewed and modified to a lower scale by the German architect Eduard Schaubert.
St. Spyridon’s Church is a basilica with transept and an octagonal dome. The iconography, containing examples of the 19th century painting belonging to the Nazarene movement, is of unique beauty while St. Spyridon’s Church has been designated by the Greek Ministry of Culture as a monument.
St. Spyridon church, founded on the ruins of St. Spyridon Monastery, dominating Akti Miaouli (Miaouli Coast) is an emblematic building definitely worth visiting.
St. Spyridon Church Trivia: A Greek Revolution hero, his house and a curse
After Athens had become the capital of the newly formed Greek State (1832), Andreas Miaoulis, one of the greatest figures of the Greek Revolution, decided to have a house built on the Piraeus Peninsula. The ideal location – being the only one free of marshes, which were abundant in the area at the time – was on the premises of the former St. Spyridon Monastery, destroyed some years ago.
The contractors involved in the construction refused to continue working on the site claiming that a monk kept coming to their dreams asking them: “why are you destroying my house?” Miaoulis had to carry on the construction by himself. Not long before the house was finished, other residents of Piraeus had dreams with the same monk telling them that “the owner of the house will never move in”. On June 11, 1835, Miaoulis died. He had never set foot in the house.